The economic value of Community Legal Centres

Institute for Sustainable Futures
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2006, pp. 1 - 24
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CLCs provide a range of legal services to individuals and their communities. These services include legal representation in courts, tribunals and other dispute resolution venues, as well as preventative services provided in the form of advice, information and referral services, community legal education, law reform and policy reform work. Work by CLCs provides clear private benefits to individuals. The clients of CLCs are most likely to be people who live in disadvantaged circumstances and have legal problems that are typically part of a number of interlinked problems. CLCs play a crucial role in untangling these legal problems and assisting individuals to move on without being penalised by their inability to access other forms of legal assistance. What is less well recognised are the broader public benefits provided to society as a result of the work of CLCs. Such recognition is critical to identifying the total economic value generated by CLCs services. Much of the work of CLCs is preventative in that it reduces the need or extent to which individuals are (or could be) involved with the legal system. CLC work therefore produces invisible benefits including how an individual accesses the publicly funded legal system and welfare services, and how that individual is able to contribute to society in the future. These indirect effects generate avoided costs, in other words costs for which government would have been liable but for the intervention of CLCs. In addition to these avoided costs, other benefits include the intrinsic benefit to society of providing a certain level of social service, welfare, assistance, protection or information to vulnerable citizens. The costing of such benefits is difficult for many reasons but this Report illustrates the need for such costs and benefits to be considered.
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